Olo and Upyio spread their arms wide and pushed the peasantry and the street vendors back, the detritus of the vendors, baskets and boxes being knocked back with their feet, clearing an area for the duel. The Captain of the City Guard, his armor gleaming, plates on his shoulders over the mail shirt and a white and red cloak draped down to mid-calf, placed his left hand on his broad sword hilt and his right arm encircled the young blond girl. He recoiled slightly at her scent. Gods, she smelled. Like fish and the sea. And she had seaweed and sand in her hair? Who would fight for her. But he guessed to each his own. He glanced across the street to where his two guardsmen stood. They leaned on their spears and looked back and forth, up and down the street, watching for interference from other schools, looking for the colors of the Gladiatores Frieburg or the green and gold of the Claidheim Mor. The other fighting schools paid the guard well to look the other way ignoring the inconsequential street duels that the students used to hone their skills. The Captain nodded with his chin and tightened his grip on the girl.
The captain smiled. "Just watch Hereward and learn," he said softly, indicating the student dressed in the brown of the Scholara Gladiatoria. "He is a master." Hereward had taken the tip of his sword in his left hand and flexed the sword first up and then down, then pointing the tip toward Hans, he sighed and made a feint to the right and made a sliding attack to the left.
Hans slapped the sword away, nary a movement in his feet as Hereward then retreated from Hans' defense, momentarily stunned by the ease with which Hans turned away the determined attack. Hereward had seen how Hans had stood his ground and casually parried Hereward's jump lunge and Hereward backed away in a saltoindietro (a Jump Backward), reassessing the ability of Hans as Hans casually pulled the slack up out of his trousers with his left hand, the main Gauche gripped between the front two fingers and the thumb, the other two fingers tugging at the fabric.
"Shall we say First Blood? It is silly to fight for the honor of a woman to the death?" Hans asked. Hereward looked over to Kareen and the Captain pulled her a little tighter to his side. The Captain looked down at the wisp of a girl and when she glanced up from the squeeze on her shoulders, smiled slightly with raised eyebrows and quietly said, "Looks like Hereward may have bit off a little more than he can chew this time. This might prove enlightening." The Captain chuckled slightly and returned his gaze to the combatants, mentally re-thinking his calculations on the two.
Circling right then left, Hans described small circles in the air with the tip of his rapier in circolaziones, watching Hereward contemplating his next move. He slashed in to Hereward, sliding an assault up toward his left shoulder. Hereward swiped the rapier's attack away, parrying with his main Gauche and tried to slide a counterattack to Hans with his rapier. Only then did Hereward realize that the attack by Hans had been a feint to get Hereward to over-extend himself and he desperately tried to meet Hans' riposte as Hans' rapier slid under the sabre and pierced Hereward's tunic. He felt the the blade slide under his right armpit but it drew no blood and pierced the front and back of the fabric only, the silver flashing in the sunlight. Hans drew away, glancing at the tip of his blade. However he saw no gore on the blade and as he retreated, he swished his blade slightly in front of him.
Hereward, took the missed counter-riposte from Hans as a failure and executed a countertime attack of his own to follow-up on the opportunity. He lunged forward, fleche-ing when he realized that Hans was not retreating but had stepped inside the tip of Hereward's saber, advancing, and as the sword slide along Hans' upper arm, the thick fabric of the jerkin turned the edge. Hans flipped his rapier, turning Hereward's main Gauche outward and Hans tucked his own Gauche in, its edge dragging against Hereward's cheek and Hans dipped the tip against his opponent's cheek, drawing a single drop of red that dripped down the edge of the main Gauche's blade and dripped off the small dagger, making a small red stain on Hereward's white scarf.
"First blood?" Hans asked, a look of amazement in Herewards eyes as his Saber and main Gauche clattered to the cobblestones. The two men separated, still facing each other, Hans slowly lowering his blades as other associates of Hereward's came forward, Hereward's right hand coming up to his cheek and dabbing at the small spot of blood that dripped down. His associates picked up his saber and smaller sword as Hans backed away, Olo coming up to him with silver pieces jingling in his hand.
"How much did we make?" he casually asked as Olo, the Hobbit counted through the various coins of different types and denominations, his fingers spreading the silver dragons and copper wheels and bronze farthings, mentally calculating in his head.
"Well, if I'm right, we made about 40 silver at two to one. Of course, no one expected you to win because Hereward is the top student at some school called the Schola Gladia- something or other and we got the bets laid down late. You're new in town but maybe we can do better the next time." Olo lowered his voice and whispered, "Don't tell anyone your name," and he hustled off to make a few more collections calling after a shoe maker and a vegetable dealer who had bet on Hereward at the beginning and were now trying to slip away unseen. One of the City Guards placed his hand on the shoemakers chest, his arm stopping the vegetable dealer, and he nodded toward Olo with his helmet saying, "I think the short man wants a word with you." They both took on a chagrined look and turned to settle their debt. Afterward Olo flipped two silvers to the City Guard, which would buy a whole gallon for the off-duty guard. Maybe they would remember him if he ever got into a scrape, Olo hoped.
The Captain of the Guard released Kareen, turned to Hans and said, "Well, you fought for her. She's all yours ... if you can stand the smell." 'Rissa the Druid came over and taking Kareen under her arm, said, "Don't worry. You only smell of the sea. We'll get that washed out in no time. Come let us go to the inn down the road."
Hans dragged a small oily rag down the length of his blade as he cleaned it and returned it to its sheath. Hereward and his compatriots had trod of down the road, muttering under their breath about "upstart sell-swords", "who did he think he was," and Hereward complaining that if he hadn't have stumbled on the loose cobble, he would have run Hans through, first blood limits or not. Hans cracked a wan smile and took his half from Olo, the silver clinking as it dropped into his pouch and he looked up at the party.
"Dinner is on Olo and me, I guess," and he looked over at Grimgar, the dwarf who had never taken his axe off of his back. "Well?" Hans asked.
Grimgar shrugged slightly and stroked his beard, the beads in his beard clicking as his hand ran over them. "Never had a moment's doubt," he said and he head toward the Blue Flail Inn. He had had the stewed pork with lentils last night and was looking forward to washing it down with several tankards of beer again and amusing the patrons with Dwarven songs of battle and history. Hans clapped his hand on the Dwarf's helmet and said, "Lead the way."
Kareen sat at the table. She had profited from the bath, even though she had just been in the water a few days ago. 'Rissa had insisted that the innkeeper's wife prepare warm water and carry it up to the large wooden tub in the large sleeping area. Then Rissa had pulled some lump of animal tallow laced with fragrant herbs and some sort of spice that smelled of Jasmine and cinnamon. She'd insisted that Kareen sit and soak for about fifteen minutes while Rissa sang gentle songs in the dimming twilight while she Kareen floated drowsily in the warm water and 'Rissa stared at the plants by the window sill. Then 'Rissa left while Kareen washed herself all over and she had to admit that the tallow smelled refreshing. 'Rissa came back in with an earth-colored shift, laid it out for Kareen and turned to look out the window while Kareen slipped it on over her head. She held up short brown boots for Kareen to try.
"How did you know my size?" Kareen asked.
"Oh. I guessed. I hope they fit," said 'Rissa after Kareen slipped them on. "Come on. Maybe we can get Grimgar to use the water while it's still warm." She laughed at the thought of the Dwarf bobbing in the water and the two of them, arm in arm, descended the stairs into the main room where the party had taken over a large table.
Dayne, the Mage, sat in one corner, his large broad-brimmed hat shielding his eyes and he was quiet, sipping from his glass, his eyes capturing everything happening in the inn, missing nothing. Grimgar missed very little also, as long as it could be seen through the bottom of a tankard of ale. He was well through his fifth song and third tale, he and a female half-Elf warrior named Jane arguing about the merits of the Elven race and she was trying to get him interested in helping her discover the fate of a party lost in the Silent Sea. After listening to the conversation for a while, Kareen realized that the half-Elf was pretty sharp tongued and probably more than a little insane.
"Kareen!" bellowed Grimgar, as a slightly attractive serving wench poured a new tankard for him from a pitcher. Grimgar unsuccessfully tried to corral her and get her to sit upon his lap and failing that, took another big draught of his ale and between mighty Dwarven belches that he seemed rightly proud of said, "Tell us the tale of how you came to Asselin."
Kareen settled back against the wall behind her, a glass of wine in her hand, and she stared down at the table for a moment. Dayne reached over and gently took her by the hand, patting it softly and said, "It's is all right. You are among friends and companions now. Right?" and he looked about the table. Hans nodded, patting his rapier pommel, saying, "I have already fought for you". Olo, barely visible behind his tankard, leaned around the side without the handle and said, "And you already made Hans and me 53 silver pieces. Not bad for a start."
Geoffrey, one of the sailors from the ship who had come with the party was sitting near the door, lifted his mug and tipped it toward her in a sign of acceptance. Upyio, the little cabin boy, who despite being told to stay on the ship had managed to somehow appear in the inn and was gnawing on a chicken leg, leaped to his feet at Dayne's words to speak but Geoffrey gave him a shove, forcing him back over the bench and under the table, his wooden clogs flying off, silencing him as he disappeared under the table.
Grimgar's fist flew to his mouth, a mighty rumbling churning from deep within his gut and a prodigious burp belched forth, only barely suppressed by the shield of his hand. His beard on either side flew outward from the force, small flecks of white foam from the mouthful of ale spotted the beard and the front of his plate mail.
He dropped his hand, revealing a sheepish grin, his eyes slightly bleary.
"It was terrible!" Kareen started slowly.
"We were tacking North-North-East on the fishing boat Matilda when the Goblin pirates struck. The ship was crewed by its owners, four young men, all cousins. The Goblins came upon us quickly, we had no chance to escape. I regained consciousness as the Gobbos were ransacking our boat. The men were all dead, and I was bound hand and foot under a careless guard. The Goblins were drinking the on-board wine and transferring cargo to their vessel. I heard them a bit. They're not just pirates, they are slavers. They were waiting for me to wake up before they violated me. The men were dead, and I was to be sold into slavery.
"I managed to jump up and stumble over the side, into the deep chill ocean. We were about eight miles off from the coast. The Gobbos were surprised, and did not pursue me into the frigid water. I was able to cut my bonds and swim away. I considered attacking the goblins and attempting to sink their ship, but decided discretion was the better part of valor. I barely survived the marathon swim to shore in the icy ocean waves. After warming up, I made my way directly to the capital of Asselin, and to this discussion."
She paused for a moment, her hands clasped. Then she wiped her hand down her forehead, the look of forlornness hardening as she looked from party member to party member.
"So, who will help me bring El’Lolu’s vengeance to those Gobbo pirate slavers?" She asked.
Dayne looked to Hans and then to Grimgar, to 'Rissa, and then to Geoffrey. "There might be something we can do about that.'
Upyio popped his head out from under the table where he had been looking for his other clog and his little voice trumpeted. "I wanna go, too!"